How Action Games Encourage Skill


what the ancients called a clever
fighter is one who not just wins but excels at winning with ease he wins his
battles by making no mistakes making no mistakes is what establishes a certain
victory for it means conquering an enemy that is already defeated son Zhu the art
of war excuse me for going old full-frontal with my pretentiousness but
this is essentially the crux of what I want to talk about today and I would
just rather rip that band-aid off right now and get right into the action there
is nothing quite as visceral or blood pumping as when a game makes every split
second branched out into a multitude of possibilities and for this reason I love
action games and to be clear I’m talking about the variety of a beat’em up
spectacle character action hack and slash you know game genres are dumb but
today I’m going to be talking about three of my personal favorite action
series Devil May Cry Bayonetta and Ninja Gaiden as prime examples of
the genre ultimately I think a good action game is rooted in the balance of
power and discipline so it’s along the lines of what makes a player feel like
they excel in combat and how it can motivate more masterful play power is
the real crux of what makes these games so enthralling in terms of character
design these three games established to the player what is expected of them
before the game even starts cutscenes and cinematics in games is a topic in
its own right but when used in these games they establish an immaculate nough
stew the character and it inspires and pumps up the player you don’t see Dante
surfing on demons and promptly eat the floorboards the dude has a goofy charm
but the confidence and swagger will be poorly juxtaposed if the player dies
Bayonetta’s sexual liberation isn’t just for eye candy but her domination and
disrespect of her foes needs to come through to the gameplay and ryu hayabusa
smith article discipline needs to shine through when the player is executing the
right combo the character’s portrayal is you
to display power and motivate the player it isn’t just to have a cutscene of a
character killing a bunch of dudes and then having the player do the same just
because Dante no wait I mean it the one from Dante’s Inferno yeah just because
he kills a bunch of people and literally death itself at the start of his game
doesn’t mean that the player has the motivation to improve or be the best
version that they can be you can literally beat this game by just mashing
the B button if you portray your characters as stylish disciplined
powerful warriors the player needs to feel that they earned that victory
mashing the x button doesn’t make you feel powerful and the player knows that
that’s because they’re missing discipline so the player needs to be
given ambitions in order to improve you need to avoid what is known as a first
order optimal strategy which is essentially a skewed ratio of minimal
effort to maximum results if you can clear out a room of enemies with the
same simple tactics then that’s the first order optimal strategy if I can
slam the same button and it works on everything and I don’t get punished for
it it encourages lazy play no matter how many enemies I take out I won’t feel
powerful because there was nothing that made me earn those results so why would
I even touch harder techniques and risk myself when I can just do this a great
action game builds on the concept of power for a player by providing options
if you want your player to thrive in power they need to earn it through
mechanical mastery to feel good when playing and learning it’s best to follow
a distinct gameplay loop built from three simple steps that I call the cycle
of mastery firstly these options need to be accessible either through
customizability or designing mechanical opportunities secondly it’s best for
these options to have a purpose or depth from multiple applications essentially
allowing a player to become more familiar with their toolkit without
complicating control schemes or game played a single mechanic that has a
hundred uses is always way more interesting than a hundred mechanics
that are confined specific scenarios finally all of these
tools need to be complimented so then players can be encouraged to be
creative when exploring that depth this can be from having a variety of
scenarios for the player things like a selection of encounters enemy types
hazards level design etc etc but a great way to encourage that depth is through
designing customizability and mechanical opportunities with accessible options so
it loops into itself becoming a cycle of layered mechanics and interactions which
keeps the player fresh and engaged when refining their skills so what does ninja
gaiden do well certain techniques are only available after you level up your
weapons so you need to at least start off by experimenting and learning the
basics before getting stronger techniques but what about once you have
those techniques then you can just level up and insta kill your enemies although
there are techniques like the azuma trope which can instantly kill one enemy
it only works on very specific enemy types that usually come in fast flanking
hordes there are a variation of enemies which can be used in conjunction with
one another in order to create new enemy encounters that force the player to use
different weapons and strategies in order to accommodate first order optimal
strategies won’t translate well into harder difficulties of ninja gaiden and
techniques like the Asuna drop are really used for their few seconds of
invincibility acting as a desperate pace breaker giving you the very few seconds
to have a breather just in case you’re stuck by an exploding kunai there’s
depth to the move set in the sense that the player needs to understand their
situation and make split-second decisions in order to dictate the best
option for each scenario so for example when approaching an enemy you can use
the flying swallow technique which is like a quick dashing zoom attack it’s a
simple move but it’s wonderful because as a myriad of purposes to it in those
split-second decisions it closes the gap between you and your enemy it can be
used to escape scrambles and works well in narrow hallways you could strike
multiple enemies at once but there are drawbacks to this
technique there aren’t many follow-up attacks and it suffers from a bit of
Lag but in terms of design this limitation is good if flying swallow had
crazy follow-ups that worked on every single type of enemy then ninja gaiden
would suffer from first order optimal strategies and the entire game suffers
the way techniques like flying swallow and as Oona dropper designed is to
provide both depth and having purpose behind those attacks the limitations of
their design is a balancing act for the devs so then players can use those
techniques with intention and discipline it isn’t just hacking and slashing you
assess your enemies the arena and position and then you make the call to
influence the battle with every button press that you make a good action game
needs the sense of depth from its mechanics so then the player feels like
that they have the potential to improve to reach that ambition of becoming a
stylish demon hunter it’s important to provide a wide tool belt of options that
the player can experiment with if you’re going to be fighting hundreds of enemies
you need to make something interesting the player can take away from paying it
as which time mechanic can be triggered when a Dodge is time to write so then
you’re encouraged to understand your enemies before punishing literally and
then you can go absolutely bonkers on a combo and freely try out all sorts of
new tactics and weapon combinations switching on-the-fly to go from maximum
style which time isn’t just a reward for players who understand the enemies but
it allows for free rein so then you can express an experiment with all new
combos but in order for a player to have expression in their gameplay they need
options which time or a Zuna drop won’t matter if the player doesn’t have an
ease of access to those options have follow-up options or even movement to
get to the enemy in the first place now Bayonetta has the glorious dodge
offset system so then dodging doesn’t interrupt her combos and you get even
more reward for paying attention to enemies and your surroundings the whole
game flows so wonderfully and it makes combat loops feel like that you
constantly have control since you don’t have to try the same setup over and over
again just because you wanted to continue a dope combo the sense of
control that comes dodge offset also plays into the sense
of power that the player feels flawlessly avoiding damage and
continuing without a care plays into the mastery that is expected of you and it
speaks brilliance when a system in a game is built to complement that feeling
while further encouraging that discipline to better yourself ease of
access to a wide variety of options gives players more purpose to experiment
with them with a wider toolkit a player will have free rein to do what how and
when they like indulging in the creative freedom of combat mechanics Devil May
Cry 4 has such brilliant mechanical pacing the player can freely cancel and
combo in order to do all sorts of shenanigans
Dante’s moves it alone has the capacity of at least 6 characters in any other
game wrapped up all into one with Dante having three weapons and three firearms
that could be used in conjunction with five different styles that could be all
swapped at will the player constantly has new options available to them not
just that but the style meter is a smooth system that gets two player to
pursue mechanical mastery you’re not really gonna be getting that smoking
sick style by doing the same thing over and over again so you’re constantly
encouraged to experiment and try new things
because of all of these options being so freely available the skill ceiling of
Devil May Cry 4 is near limitless the toolkit is so diverse that it naturally
comes with that depth and it’s up to the player to come up with their own savvy
style on how to play the game with every technique and attack acting as another
brushstroke in the art of war oh that’s my boy Sun Tzu again now the cycle of
mastery can be applied to more than just action games and it’s essentially a
gameplay loop and design philosophy that helps incentivize higher level of play
potentially pushing a competitive scene or advancing metagame all of which is
pretty important when it comes to increasing the longevity of your game
just like power discipline is something that needs to be sought after training
and having an understanding of what you’re capable of allows you to fully
appreciate every victory that you earn with an action game this
play as well lets the player revel in the exploration of dominating power so
you obtain real mastery from recognizing what it takes to be a clever fighter all
sorts of things can encourage that discipline ranking systems come in once
they understand all of the other aspects of the game these act as another method
to go above and beyond just beating the game discouraging player behaviors that
depend on first order optimal strategies and actively encouraging players that
partake in the cycle of mastery in order to pursuit making no mistakes
so that the player can be exalted for their dedication these three games play
on combat fundamentals in different ways but they are there to provide a sense of
depth that the player can refine and improve at ninja gaiden concise toolbelt
bayonetta’s diverse punish game and the plethora of potential and Devil May Cry
getting a 6 smokin stylin master ninja pure platinum or any other top rank in
an action game isn’t just about hacking and slashing through a level it’s more
than winning it’s about excelling at winning making no mistakes and
conquering an enemy that is already defeated so that is my theory on the
cycle of mastery and how it fits in terms of action games I know that the
term action game is super broad but do you have a favorite what are some other
games that you can think of that can be connected to the cycles of mastery I
would love to know I’m always down for some sick game design discussion be sure
to tune in again when we will be leaping above and beyond
next time inside the game design archive which is funded entirely through patreon
thank you so much to the name scrolling by for their splendid support but in
particular I would like to thank Nathan siter my beautiful fiance Natalie waters
TK and other son shows I would also like to thank vash the shell bullet for
recording his high level divil make rye four skills for this video I figured if
I were to talk about mechanical mastery I should actually consult a master
of the game he also gave me a lot of insight into action games which really
helped when writing the script the dude seriously knows his stuff you
should check out his video that covers near automata which is one of my
favorite games to come out this year anyway I hope you have a wonderful day
and stay splendid the player to become more you hear that
that’s my fucking Birds

100 thoughts on “How Action Games Encourage Skill

  1. Fantastic video! Can't wait to try DMC some time. Basically the only action spectacle fighter thing I haven't played 🙂

  2. Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 was my first game that tought me, that if you don't control yourself… you're fucked. Not any Dark Souls gives you that kind of feel. In fact Dark Souls is not about mastering, it's about making game easy for yourself, by using exploits and building stats. Where Ninja Gaiden telling you "You either learning to play or you die". And when you finally learn how to play, the reward for that is gorgeous battles on the screen. When I completed Sigma 2 for the first time, I thought "How about another round?" and hit new game again. And when I start all over again, it was sooooo easy. I just learn how to play, I learn what to do, and I just had great fun. I even beat the game on the high difficulty, but I not the kind of player that seeks most hardcore game ever. So normal difficulty mode is working well for me. It's not letting me to get lazy and in the same time it's giving me most balanced challange.

  3. I loved everything in this video also I like how you used rules of nature from metal gear rising revengence

  4. When developers label their game as "action-rpg", it should still be labeled as an action game right? But why do they need to implement a stamina system? Doesn't it slow down the action? Looking at you Piranha Bytes and From Software. Those kinds of games should be categorized as "tactical rpgs".

  5. This is probably my favorite video on youtube, great job! These are my favorite games and you have a very good understanding of them. Im so happy to see someone analyzing these types of games so perfectly.
    p.s What do u think about the new Devil May Cry 5 trailer?

  6. The clips of the combat in this video proves that there's getting gud and then there's being straight up ridiculous with how you stylishly clear the room of anything and everything that so much as sneezes in your general direction. That's why I argue that the three franchises that were mentioned in this video will always be miles ahead of anything that Fromsoftware could ever make

  7. To me, a big reason why these games encourage skill (that you sadly didn't go that deep into) are the ranking systems. The new God of War was like an empty fart when there's an extremely strong "first order optimal strategy" of just running and throwing your axe, combined with no ranking system of any sort, giving you the same result as fighting "properly" for every encounter. The game in no way acknowledges or requires you to "master" the combat system and use all sorts of different attacks, and it doesn't take much more time to cheese the fights with the axe throw either, vice versa, it can just speed up your progress because the melee combat in that game is too damn risky and you'll probably just die several times because of the clunky mechanics that I'll not even go into. Also, learning some skills limits what you can do without them… and you cannot turn them off. What a great game. SO what I was originally about to say: Did you know that positive feedback increases INTRINSIC motivation of the player to do well?

  8. Wow, that actually helped me understand the underlying mechanics of these games. Especially the ones mentioned in the video. I struggled hard in NGS because I just kept on using Flying Swallow so I'd like to play it again with a different mindset.

  9. you just got yourself a sub…great video…for me its Ninja Gaiden all day..the feeling of going into a battle and beating hard foes without being touched is what I imagine real ninjas felt….

    Also I loved how team ninja handled difficulty ..the didn't just up the enemies damage and hp…but rather made you play a different game..new enemy types..new groups new bosses weapons at different points….I wished every game did it like that

  10. I love that DMC and Bayonetta are getting new entries in their series with DMC5 and Bayonetta 3 but damn i wish Ninja Gaiden was too, i guess NG is just gonna stay MIA for now since Team Ninja is most likely busy with Nioh 2.

  11. This is impressively stated. Gaming creators should take note. I just recently startef getting into dmc but omg Ninja Gaiden though….i have never played any game with more player focus and mechanic mastery than Ninja fucking Gaiden. I put it so many hours in my childhood to get good and still haven't finished Master Ninja. My heart is still breaking knowing we dont have a true Ninja Gaiden on Ps4 or Xbone. Very informative my friend. Gamers have the knowledge on what makes games great.

  12. Give me a game like DMC where i can find infinite air combo's by continuiously grabbing new enemies from the ground to say hello to a plethora of weapon switching combo's.

  13. beat ninja gaiden 2 without taking damage – you are now ready to face chuck norris, bruce lee and muhhamad ali 1v3

  14. Ninja Gaiden and Dmc are my favorite single player game series, been playing them for years. Only one I havent tried yet is Bayonetta but i always hear good things about it, so looking forward to trying that eventually

  15. Absolutely wonderful job.this video holds true with every last fact and i realized how accurate you were with your descriptions as i had played bayonetta 1 and found myself constantly restarting levels in order to learn enemy patterns and gain higher scores all while constantly trying to improve my combos to make them longer and more effective. I love what you're doing and honestly cannot wait to see the rest of your videos. Thank you so much for making this

  16. I Wish They Making a Characters Action Game Based on The Legend of Zelda,Wario,and Donkey Kong Game Made by Platinum Game,Koei Tecmo, and Capcom That Going be Awesome

  17. When I play these action games, I never really put time into understanding the mechanics but I always try to use different sorts of combos instead of just pressing the same one over and over again.

  18. 1st time playing dmc 4 as a kid…
    Half the time i was confused…with so many powers , special moves , guns , cannons, guns that turned into spaceships!…
    Different attack types powers got from the bosses….
    Styles of dante , the engine reving of swords…etc…

  19. Someone else here said it better than me but Bayonetta feels kinda lacking in depth tbh, sorta like it plays itself. I felt absolutely zero inclination to improve or gain mastery over the game, because I was thoroughly bored most of the way through, constantly hoping it would suddenly get better. The Devil May Cry and Ninja Gaiden games, by contrast, had me utterly hooked.

  20. Ninja Gaiden games have bad level design which is the only reason why they're overly difficult Ninja Gaiden Black is probably the worst game in the series only because it's filled to the brim with bullshit unblockable grabs mixed with overly aggressive A.I and small fighting areas probably because the game developers didn't know that games are supposed to be "FUN" because when I play a game that's about a Ninja with a dragon sword and magical powers I expect to have "FUN" and "ENJOY" myself I don't expect "getting my ass handed to me by unforgivable A.I: The Game" not that I think that it should be easy but you can make a game challenging and still make it fair look at the Force Unleashed games, they're less about making things dickishly challenging then they're about making the player feel like a total badass while still putting enough challenge in there to make it an enjoyable experience plus you can tell that the game had a lot of time and effort put into it unlike "other" games like I don't know Devil May Try Not To Get Your Ass Kicked 4
    And Force Unleashed 1 and 2 are my personal favorite action games because you can't rely on one playstlye or pure skill in every situation some enemies like the electric troopers who can only take damage from melee attacks and if zapped with force lightning would electrify their shields so you couldn't attack them and each level had different ways of dispatching enemies. fans, the vacuum of space, chairs, scraps of an object or vehicle you've destroyed, vents, cooling units, sentry guns, crates, explosive canisters, ect. all of the bosses have strengths and weaknesses like the 2nd boss blocks your force attacks and your melee attacks so you either have to use your lightning so you can stun him but risk taking damage from him by doing the lightning deflect mini game or QTE wrong which takes focus instead of skill. you can unlock normal, force, and lightning combos which basically means that the player is the weapon and has full control of what they can and cannot do which adds multiple play styles that you have to use to get past each level which is a hell of a lot more interesting than what DMC, Bayonetta, and Ninja Gaiden have to offer because it requires all of the skill sets you've learned from them instead of just one unlike most of Hack and Slash games you can't rely on the same move so you can't rely on the same type of combo in the Unleashed games you have launching combos, stun combos, and normal combos the short combos do less damge and can't be followed up by a different attack or combo which requires strategy and an awareness of your surroundings because everything can be used as a weapon but repeated use of the force or lightning attacks will drain the force meter in a few seconds at best, so the punishment of repeated use is a long cool down. There are also perks in battle areas which effect the player in positive and negative way if playing recklessly like if you had a invincibility perk active it could wear off as you hit a dead end (which usually have a bunch of objects that damage you and the enemies) but if you have an awareness of your surroundings you can use the lethal environment to your advantage. The saber crystals buff the player but can't be equipped all at once think of them as Dante's styles if he had more than 10 of them. And don't even get me started on the title screen it has probably one of the best title screen themes I've ever heard. There's also a boss battle with a ro ot named proxy who turns into every boss you've defeated so far so you have to switch up your playstlye 4 times in one boss fight.
    So Force Unleashed is basically every hack and slash game put into one The QTE finishers of God of War, the style mechanic of DMC3 and 4, and many others you can probably think of.

  21. I remember when Ninja Gaiden Black sent me to Ninja Dog mode.

    it was a humbling experience.

    I eventually able to beat the game.

    I need to play that game again.

  22. Just one thing on Ninja Gaiden. The Izuna drop is very unsafe on Very Hard & Master Ninja. Enemies (I'm looking at you she-cats) will routinely swipe you out the air while your performing the start of the technique. The flying swallow is INCREDIBLY unsafe because enemies will directly counter it like the bayonet-weilding army men. Most at higher levels will dodge it relatively easily leaving you vulnerable. Having played DMC1-3 and Bayonetta all on the highest difficulties I feel as if Ninja Gaiden has the best combat in my opinion. Incredibly fluid, difficult, rewarding, and immersive. The control starts to feel like a medium with which YOU jump YOU slash & YOU dodge.

  23. It's been over a year but I'm going to throw this out there.

    So a game that actually surprised with its skill ceiling was Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix (not og KHII because lack of dodge roll and crit mode). It doesn't have the depth or variety of any of the games discussed in the video, but playing on Critical Mode opens your eyes to the depth and overall well thought out design of KHII Final Mix.

    In Critical Mode compared to Normal you only get half your health bar for the entire game and enemies hit you twice as hard. However, to offset this you are given a damage multiplier pf 1.25 to all of your attacks. Thus incentivising the player to end engagements quickly while maximizing damage output. Precision and power become your best friends.

    Additionally the tougher mobs force you to consider the magical skills in your arsenal because enemies swarm and do so much damage now. You learn to rely on Fire for it's AOE in you immediate vicinity, a move that on normal would never be even thought about let alone planned. Magnet goes from being a boring slow damaging vortex on enemies to being a way to hold portions of mobs off so you can effectively engage them without getting surprise attacked (as mobs have mediocre telegraphing design). Limit attacks become the ultimate risk vs reward offering tremendous damage but losing the ability to Cure until your MP returns.

    The inherit weakness of drive forms are made extremely clear. Valor can't heal (you die in like 2-4 hits you need to heal), Wisdom doesn't deal damage fast enough, Master doesn't always have the best damage output, Limit is still Op, and Final Form has terrible controls for mobility. Suddenly you stop spamming forms and only use them when absolutely necessary because base Sora can utilize all of their special movements (i.e. High Jump, Glide, Aerial Dodge,).

    The revenge value in boss fights goes from being "when your opponent decides to hit you and you just recover from the damage" to "how you keep tabs on your opponents entire pattern". This is important overall but once you get to Data Org fights where one hit kills are only nullified by Second Chance and Once More you absolutely have to know it, otherwise surviving is impossible.

    Now KHII Final MIx still has the issue of one main attack button and very little comboing if any, but I never would have known how well made the surrounding elements were until it me forced to really excel at winning. I'm doing a Critical Mode Lvl 1 run right now and I'm still learning little things about the games design here and there. If you are at all curious or want a particular example of all this I would strongly recommend Bizkitz Critical Mode Speedrun of KHII Final Mix

  24. higher difficulties on dmc4 especially DMD required the player to learn the games mechanics if they want to make progress

  25. I just call it the mayonetta or devil bay cry genre. Worked for Metroidvania can’t see why we can’t do the same with this to solidify the genre.

  26. Not sure if your still reading the comments, but I enjoy the combat in Castlevania lords of shadow , The reason is due to three different systems. You have the light and Shadow Magic system the focus system from perfect blocking and keeping up combos, and the traditional sub weapon system. You can utilizing these systems together to create something that I've never experienced with these games and I've played them all the ones you listed. That's what made Lords of Shadow unique, I didn't need a bunch of different weapons, I have one main weapon bundled with sub weapons with Magic that buff them in interesting ways that also could deal double damage to certain enemies so that was good to know . It gets talked down but playing with the toolset in los made me think highly of it.

  27. I haven't tried Nier Automata but perhaps it's worth a mention. Otherwise i have no reason to disagree with everything in the video

  28. Bayonetta 2 is my favorite in the hack-and-slash genre, however, it is the only one that I have really played (no MGS, DMC, or Ninja Gaiden).

    I think Arkham City is probably my favorite combat system in general just because of how many options are given to you. It takes a long time to get good at using every gadget to make your rank skyrocket, but it feels so satisfying if you use as many tools/moves as possible. The base combat is really simple to follow, but once you start using quick gadgets it's like a whole new game.

    And Spider-Man PS4 is my favorite in terms of flow and using the environment to your advantage.

    Those are just some I thought of. Great video!

  29. So annoyed I didn't play these games when I was younger. They're what I've always wanted but are so damn niche it took me forever to start playing them. At least I played a ton of DMC the last few years. The new one is pure gaming bliss.

  30. Unfortunately DMC5 sucks ass half of the game, after the high level combat of Bayonetta nothing in the game tops what Platinum Games did, maybe a little bit the Nero section's

  31. to me nothing beats the satisfaction of the Issen/Critical system of the Onimusha series.Nothing says "fuck you" to the opponent like being able to one shot them with careful timing.

  32. Bayonetta 1 & 2 will always be the best action hack n slash game in the genre, I do play most of the beat'em up games like DMC 1- 5 , ninga gaiden 1-2 , god of war all titles & I love them too but no one give me the joy to play it more then bayonetta games.

  33. Ninja gaiden fav games of all time… black and 2…. my fav types of games all time as I’m going through dmc 3 & 4 before buying 5. This video says it all for me as to why I love these games. Perfecto my man loved it

  34. 10:55

    That is really low level melee play. Not a single wavedash. "Reading" a flacon punch on Fox? Fuck off.

  35. Can you make more videos? I thoroughly enjoyed this video, if possible could you make some videos about card games like hearthstone/mtg/pokemon?

  36. Ninja Gaiden can suffer a little from first order optimum strategy. The Izuna Drop and the flying swallow are moves that I do spam the most in the game. Even on harf mode. Not as bad as other games, but it does happen sometimes

    This is something that will get me a lot of flack. But DmC Devil May Cry does have a system I love. Where you can start one combo with one weapon and end the same combo with a different weapon. Since you can easily switch weapons and the similar inputs (but different results). Though enemy AI's are very passive and attack you less whe they are off screen. Also keep in mind, as much as I love DmC Devil May Cry, it isn't as good as DMC5. That game is still much better

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